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What should I know about banking?

Banks, Banking Accounts, & Services

To open a bank account you must provide two pieces of acceptable Government-Issued Identification. As a new Canadian, you may also need to provide an educational or employment reference. For more information, refer to the Settlement.Org guide to opening a bank account.

You should open a bank account as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada. Most banks will not allow you to set up an account before you arrive. If you are transferring money from a bank account in your home country, be aware that this can take a long time.

You may also wish to consider banking at a credit union – a financial institution owned by its users. Credit unions offer a full range of financial products and services, and the opportunity to have a voice in how your financial institution is run. Credit unions tend to be committed to the community.

Some banks and credit unions offer financial products specifically for new Canadians in order to help with access to products and services typically only available to people with Canadian credit history.  For more information, please visit the websites or branches of local banks and credit unions.

Debit Card

Debit cards are sometimes referred to as INTERAC, Maestro, Cirrus, or bank cards. Debit cards are used as a form of payment that lets you make purchases using the money in your bank account. They also allow you to access your bank account through Automated Banking Machines (ABMs) or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

If you use the ATM or ABM of another bank, you will have to pay a fee. The fee is higher when you use a privately-owned ATM. These private machines are found in corner stores, restaurants and other places. It is cheaper to use the machines owned by your bank or credit union.

Credit Cards

If possible, do not cancel your credit cards before you come to Canada. You might need them until you get a new credit card from a local bank. Please consult the Credit Card Selector Tool to find out which card is best for you. To obtain a credit card, you are required to provide personal information.

As a new Canadian, it may be difficult to obtain a credit card because you do not have a credit history in Canada. Settlement.org provides information on how to establish a Canadian credit history. For information on credit checks and your credit rating, please see this guide from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).


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